Hidden dangers in COVID cleaning products

Font Size:

Hygienic citizens are facing a new challenge during the pandemic, with increased use of cleaning products triggering asthma attacks.

Asthma Australia reports that 29 per cent of recent survey respondents said their asthma was activated by an increased use of cleaning products in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cleaners and disinfectants end up in the air we breathe and on the things we touch, says Asthma Australia. Once there, they can irritate the airways and skin. Asthmatics must be aware of what is being used and where, the organisation says.

“The first thing is for people to be aware that there are more cleaning chemicals being used around us during this time of coronavirus and there’s not much we can do about that,” says Asthma Australia CEO Michele Goldman.

“As we get out and about more, it does present as a real barrier to people with asthma. But there are some things you can do to prepare and reduce your exposure.”

Ms Goldman says some of the biggest culprits for triggering asthma are disinfectants such as bleach and ammonia, which when mixed are particularly harmful.

“Artificial fragrances found in household products are another trigger.”

People with asthma are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, according to the US Centers For Disease Control.

“COVID-19 can affect your nose, throat, lungs (respiratory tract); cause an asthma attack; and possibly lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease,” it says.

Respiratory health risks will become more important as disinfectants are used more, says Orianne Dumas, a researcher at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research.

She told chemicalwatch.com: “It is likely that the COVID-19 pandemic will impact both individual behaviours and disinfection practices in healthcare settings. Currently, adequate levels of disinfection must be maintained in healthcare settings to protect patients and workers from infections, including COVID-19.

“In the years to come, if cleaning and disinfection recommendations are to change, they should integrate knowledge on respiratory health risks associated with (the) risk of disinfectants and cleaning products. In healthcare settings, this may require the development of new strategies for infection control.”

Addressing the return of children with asthma to school, The Lancet says “various household cleaning products have been associated with an increased risk of asthma and wheeze across all age groups”.

“Consequently, cleaning products used in schools should be free of organic compounds, irritants or fragrances.”

Asthma Australia advises asthmatics to:

·       Understand your triggers and reduce your exposure in circles of your control such as in your home and frequently visited homes of family or friends.

·       Always have an asthma reliever puffer and spacer on hand in case of emergencies.

·       Take your preventer medication as prescribed, and if you’re experiencing new or increased symptoms, follow your Asthma Action Plan and consult your GP for an asthma review.

·       Ring ahead to reduce your risk – if you have an appointment such as for a hairdresser, phone ahead and check what cleaning routines consist of, and how they can cater for you before your appointment.

·       For children at schools, be sure to speak to the classroom teacher about what cleaning routines consist of and how this could be adjusted to safely accommodate your child.

·       Notify your employer and have an empowered discussion about ways to stay well at work and what options are available to you.

Employers are encouraged to check if anyone on their staff is sensitive to health affects from cleaning chemicals, and to consider ways to reduce their risk, such as switching from sprays to wipes, and choosing allergy friendly products where appropriate.

The federal Department of Health recommends cleaning frequently touched surfaces such as door handles, bedrails, tabletops and light switches with a detergent solution during COVID-19.

Safe use of disinfectants:

·       Always follow the label – this applies to everyone. Use only the recommended amounts and follow procedures for use.

·       Use products that could reduce your inhalation exposure, such as wipes or dampened towels, to disinfect surfaces. These options will substantially lower inhalation exposure compared to sprays, which generate aerosols.

·       Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds immediately after cleaning. Throw away protective wear if damaged or soiled with bodily fluids.

·       Protect yourself by wearing waterproof cleaning gloves and masks if available. Chemicals and fragrances in cleaning products can irritate skin, eyes and lungs, so avoid direct contact and use the least toxic product whenever possible.

·       Ventilate well during and after cleaning (e.g. opening windows) no matter what the product.

·       Protect others in your household by cleaning when others aren’t around or moving household members to a different room while you clean.

·       Store cleaning materials out of reach of children and pets.

·       Never mix products! (e.g. chlorine or bleach plus ammonia can produce deadly gases.)

Sources: Massachusetts Asthma Action Partnership; epa.gov

Do you know what’s in your cleaning products? Have you had breathing difficulties as a result of any cleaning products you’ve been using?

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

Join YourLifeChoices today
and get this free eBook!

By joining YourLifeChoices you consent that you have read and agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy


Hospital cleaners share top tips to keep your home COVID free

Here's what you should be doing to keep your home virus free.

Common kitchen cleaning mistakes and their simple fixes

We may wipe down our kitchen bench regularly, but this doesn't mean it's clean.

New cleaning standard for hotels

Hilton Hotels will deliver an industry-defining standard of cleanliness and disinfection.

Written by Will Brodie


Total Comments: 10
  1. 0

    I hope no one mixes bleach and ammonia as is hinted at in this article. The resulting gas, chloramine, is More than ‘particularly harmful’. It is deadly!

  2. 0

    LOL- you are dammed if you do, and dammed if you don’t. Can’t win. I guess just do a common ground. I was never a super have everything clean person, except for the toilet, and cleaning light swtiches/door handles- have always done this, always. My kids were like the healthiest kids in Primary school. They never got sick. I wanted to stay at home with them taking their temperature, feeding them chicken soup. But the little buggers didn’t get sick. My husband brought ‘colds” home from work, but we seem to avoid his sickenss. I also made sure that 1 toilet was designated as the ‘sick’ toilet if anybody got a cold etc. and stepped up the cleaning of light swicthes/door handles etc.

  3. 0

    Exactly. I haven’t had asthema for 10 years since we eliminated all household to non-chemical. Now it’s back and every night I get attack. Still I have to take public transport and public area, I can’t stay in safe bubble. Hope all over soon.

  4. 0

    We started using Bio Magic in our Motorhome and now replaced nasty cleaners in our home, it is good.

    The regular use of disinfectant cleaning products such as bleach has been linked to an increased risk of developing fatal lung conditions, researchers said.

    A study by Harvard University and the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) found that using the products just once a week could increase a person’s chance of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by nearly a third.

    The research involved data from more than 55,000 nurses in the US.

    • 0

      That’s interesting Jo. I find if I use those so called “natural” products (which are really just as chemical as anything else”), my asthma and hay becomes much worse. Iy improved significantly hen I use commercial cleaners. Just shows everyone is different I guess.

  5. 0

    So this is why my asthma has been the worst it has ever been. Up until this year I have not had much trouble with the asthma except trying to take the puffer with my right wrist bones bolted to a metal t-bar when I broke it which prevents me turning and twisting and pressing properly with that hand. I had to change puffers for this reason. Now I have reflux, and cough from the asthma being triggered by the reflux (so the doctor says) which makes people shy off me thinking bad things. I try to wear a mask as much as possible so I don’t panic anyone when I cough but it makes breathing a bit difficult what with the asthma.
    I use a perfume spray in the toilet because I can’t stand a smelly toilet so that might aggravate my asthma too. Will have to remember not to breathe in when using it.
    I am washing my hands at home so much that my skin is real shiny and things slip in my hands now. I put tissues or serviettes on the bench tops and place all my eating and cooking cutlery on them so I don’t pick up anything when I bring a bag with groceries into the kitchen and place on the bench to unpack. I have 2 small hand towels in the laundry near the taps for personal use and alternate with those leaving the big towel for anyone else to use. AT 85 you can’t be too careful.

    • 0

      Instead of perfume spray, there are harmless options available. Check with pet shops and camping shops, there are product for organic odor. I use crystal salt for underarm dissolved in water to make spray. In toilet works wonderfully.

      Myself is allergic to perfume so must be something bad in there. Also any underarm chemical spray make me sick.

  6. 0

    Almost all cleaner in supermarkets are labelled as antibacterial – absolutely no use against a VIRUS.
    And in anycase they are not necessary. Plain soap and water is sufficient for most cleaning jobs, perhaps supplemented with white vinegar, bicarb and newspapers! I haven’t used any chemical cleaners in my home for years, they just aren’t necessary. Asthma or no asthma.

  7. 0

    Most of the cleaning products are more dangerous than the possibility of catching something and they reduce our immunity. Anti bacterial products are so dangerous as they encourage the formation of super bugs, apart from doing nothing to combat a virus.
    I think the constant use of sanitizer will result in a rise in skin problems like exema as we are supposed to have good bacteria on our site n. Just use soap and water and keep things clean with vinegar and baking soda. No need to go overboard



continue reading


What happens to regional travellers when borders snap shut?

Beryl lives in a regional area and is planning a trip to another regional area and wants to know if...


Surprising Aussie town of the year revealed

If you were asked to name Australia's best town, what would you say? If your mind wandered to the sweeping...


Avalon airport first to introduce COVID testing kiosks

Avalon Airport is the first in Australia to use COVID-testing kiosks after the HealthGate machine was approved by the Therapeutic...


Some of the world's most verdant city escapes

In an increasingly eco-conscious world, smoky, fume-filled cities often get a bad name. The car exhaust, the noise pollution, the...


Simon and Carla Fowler are sailing through retirement

As soon as the pandemic is over and life returns to some semblance of order, would you consider buying a...


Can you guess the city from a virtual walk around the streets?

As we rapidly approach the one-year anniversary of Australia's international borders being closed, you will not be alone in missing...


New South Wales' top five stays

Airbnb in New South Wales is booming. The variety and quality of stays is staggering. However, many of the most...


Jordan is a Middle Eastern delight

"Jordan is one of the driest places on earth. About 75 per cent of our land is desert," notes our...